COVID-19 has turned our worlds upside down in a split second — for people of all ages. Perhaps no change has been more disorienting than online learning. Without warning, our teenagers were ushered out of school and forced to resume with teachers and classmates through computers and cellphones. The expectation was that they would keep their grades afloat and themselves healthy without missing a beat.
It turns out the stress of online learning can be intense for many different reasons. And for teens at risk, that can lead in bad directions, such as substance abuse problems. In the age of COVID-19, our coping skills are more important than ever. Online learning ranks high on the list.
The Stress of Online Learning
It’s important to remember that we are all already living with greater stress because of COVID-19. Online learning generates additional stressors. For teenagers, that can be a dangerous combination. Here are some of the ways the stress of online learning impacts your teen:
- Loneliness and isolation. Online learning separates your teen from classmates. Depending on your family situation, teens might be spending all day alone.
- Increased workload. Online learning comes with the expectation that a student will understand and properly navigate new technologies such as Zoom or WebEx.
- Physical strains. Staring at a screen all day, perhaps lacking a proper chair, squinting through glare — these can take a physical toll.
- Changes in instructional support. Being in a classroom with a teacher means there is always available to answer questions or solve problems. The online environment inhibits one-on-one interactions.
If the stress of online learning isn’t managed well, it can lead to more severe consequences in a teen’s life. Acting before that happens is critical.
How Stress Leads to Substance Abuse
No two students are exactly alike. We all cope with stress differently. Some teens may have good coping skills. Others may not be so lucky or are cut off from hobbies because of COVID-19.
The danger is that the stress of online learning can lead to worse consequences. Some people may choose to self-medicate.
That may make someone feel OK at first. But the effects of drugs and alcohol eventually wear off. When they do, a teen stands on the precipice of physical dependency.
Providing a support system for young people thrust into online learning reduces the risk of this happening. Be aware of the signs of stress.
Coping Skills and Treatment
One of the ways you can support your teen online learner is by helping them develop habits designed to counterbalance the stress and to practice them. Some of these good habits include:
- Take breaks. Get away from the computer at regular intervals.
- Use technology for something other than work. Encourage your young person to reconnect virtually for fun outings with friends and family.
- Get enough sleep. Starting the day fatigued already puts your teen behind the curve. As the day goes on, fatigue and frustration can build.
- Stay organized. Your teen’s organizational skills will be different than they were at school. Make sure they build a new system for tracking assignments, due dates, and all other obligations.
- Maintain a dialogue. Talk to your teen and encourage them to talk to you; or, if needed, engage with a therapist.
Get Help and Support at Destinations for Teens
Online learning poses enormous challenges for our children as we seek to get the COVID-19 virus under control. One of those is stress, and stress can lead to substance abuse. If your teen needs support at this time for a substance abuse habit or just for improved mental health, contact Destinations for Teens. Our treatment and rehab center is geared toward the unique needs of boys and girls. Our experienced staff provides treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, mental health, and co-occurring disorders. We take an approach that treats the whole individual and the whole family through various therapy services. When a young person is in trouble, it affects everyone. Don’t let the stress of online learning take your young person down the wrong path. Contact Destinations for Teens today at 877.466.0620 for an appointment.